We took the Snapchat Spectacles to record a trip to LA. This is what happened

Are Snapchat Spectacles better than an iPhone when it comes to hiking Runyon Canyon? Cathy Adams puts the theory to the test

Snapchat Spectacle tour of LA: are the glasses your new travel companion?

I’ve just landed in Los Angeles, and I’ve set myself a tough assignment. Leave my iPhone at the hotel and record the entire trip with just the new generation of Snapchat Spectacles. Can it be done?

Well I needed to download Snapchat for a start.

Of all the cities on earth, super outdoorsy LA seemed the ideal place to trial a new pair of the specs, which take videos and photos hands-free – sort of like an elegant GoPro for your face. On my itinerary was hiking Runyon Canyon, cycling along the city’s mega-famous boulevards, a private tour of the Broad art museum and generally stalking minor celebrities around West Hollywood, Peep Show-style – a mission which would presumably be far more discreet than chasing them with my iPhone.

I wanted to test if the spectacles were the ideal travel companion.

The first iteration of Snapchat Spectacles had a lukewarm reception as their huge hype didn’t translate into sales. Snapchat’s developers have upped the ante with the second-generation models, which came out in September. They’re waterproof and stylish – the operative syllable being ‘ish’ – as well as having polarised lenses like regular shades.

The glasses unfortunately didn’t look quite as stylish on me

I packed the new Nico model, which from far away could pass for regular matte-black shades but up close looked suspiciously like chunkier versions of the 3D glasses given out at Imax cinemas.

The spectacles take snappy, 10-second videos and photos with the press of a button, hidden Matrix-like on top of the thick frames. Only a flashing light – perhaps they’re not that discreet, after all – at the front showed they were recording.

There was a rather painful period of figuring out how they work: downloading Snapchat, hooking the app up to the glasses via Bluetooth, actually filming the videos. When the glasses finish recording, the videos and images are filed automatically in the Snapchat app.

First on the LA agenda: cycling. I borrowed a bike from my hotel and set off to explore West Hollywood – which, I should add, nobody in LA does as it’s still a car city at heart – with the Snapchat Spectacles balanced uneasily on my nose.

Pedalling furiously along sun-drizzled Santa Monica Boulevard, I recorded short videos of me whizzing past “sceney” restaurants such as Sur, palm trees and a branch of In and Out burger, occasionally dipping my head down to record the fact I was on a bike. The speed is hard to capture with the glasses though, regardless of how quickly I was pounding along the bike lane. Plus LA roads are so long and samey the footage didn’t do the journey justice.

The same for Sunset Boulevard, a traffic-clogged highway studded with celebrity hangouts. I thought I saw Kylie Jenner brunching outside, which caused my head to snap back 90 degrees and my video to jerk halfway through. Cycling past tourists nipping in and out of the luxe boutiques of palm-tree fringed Rodeo Drive was better short video fodder – although what seemed to be glamorously exhilarating in my head looked surprisingly slow when I watched it back.

It was on an adventurous hike up Runyon Canyon with Hikes and Bikes LA that the specs really came into their own. The glasses meant I could surreptitiously film the mega-mansions of Drew Barrymore, Slash and – supposedly – Patrick Dempsey, buried in the Hollywood Hills, with just a tap of my finger while I pretended to look thoughtfully out across the canyon.

On the roof of LA, otherwise known as Runyon Canyon, wearing Snapchat Spectacles (Cathy Adams)

The fish-eye style videos looked surprisingly dramatic when hiking, probably because my heart rate was as jerky as my movements. After running to the top, the glasses allowed for an unshaky panorama over Griffith Park, the Hollywood sign and the neighbourhoods that make up urban LA. One benefit of using the spectacles was that I could fully see and appreciate the view, rather than viewing it second-hand through my phone camera.

The glasses’ final outing was to Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors, at the Broad art museum in Downtown. Spinning on the spot, recording 360 degrees of blinking white, red and blue, only added to the disorientation of the exhibition. The spectacles are definitely more suited to a wide-open panorama than a fiddly Instagram exhibition, where your head aches from the constant spinning around trying to capture everything. There was one final – possible – reprieve for the specs: I skulked around Craig’s, a super-slebby restaurant on Melrose Boulevard, late one night wearing them, in the hope of catching stars eating – Mariah Carey had been seen there the week before, according to Instagram. Unfortunately, not even Snapchat could help me flush out any A-listers.

I downloaded the videos that night while waiting at LAX: a convoluted process that involves connecting to the glasses’ WiFi network to transfer them onto my iPhone camera roll. The short, circular videos don’t seem to have captured how bright and pacey my trip was, and the jerky panoramas I captured on the bike are enough to induce a fit.

In short, they’re a fun gimmick that were more a conversation starter than anything else. The shaky bursts I captured of Griffith Park and Rodeo Drive have yet to make it past my camera roll, so I’ll be sticking to my regular Ray-Bans for the next trip.

Snapchat Spectacles cost £199 and are available at spectacles.com/uk/

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